The range claims are only good for 1,000 recharges, whereupon the battery capacity will start to drop; 10 per cent for the next 1,000 charges and so on. A new battery will cost about £700, which is expensive, but then a recharge will cost less than 40 pence and brakes will require less servicing than those of conventional scooters.
On bumpy roads it feels stable, but the ride is choppy and harsh, and while the steering rake is gentle enough for the bike to be controllable in tight turns, it does drop into the corners and you need to have a care when turning into T-junctions.
I liked it quite a lot, but it’s not a proper motorcycle nor a scooter. It’s more of a runabout; great for the seafront commute on a sunny morning, less so on a cold winter evening when you just want to get home. Like a lot of battery-powered two-wheelers, it desperately needs 50 per cent more range and performance.
It’s here you might ask yourself what the established Japanese, Italian and UK motorcycle manufacturers have been doing for the last decade and why we aren’t being offered battery-electric scooters and motorcycles from them. Truth is they haven’t been idle, but the machines they’ve developed haven’t been given the go ahead partly because of their cost, over-futuristic style or lack of range/performance. BMW’s electric scooter, for example, the C Evolution, costs more than £14,000.
The Chinese and Taiwanese haven’t been slow to fill the gap, although the road chaos such machines cause, plus the horrendous accident rates and the stress they impose on the generating capacity, means that in certain Chinese cities they’ve actually been banned.
You can also add in American and European anti-dumping legislation, which has drastically reduced Chinese imports of e-bikes, means that companies such as NIU will have to watch their step.
So, could you leave the conventional car at home for the daily commute and ride the NQi instead, and would that be as environmental as forking out for an electric car?
The maths is complicated. According to Department for Transport figures, the average UK mileage for a petrol car in 2018 was about 6,600 miles. Using the latest figures for UK electricity generation, to cover that distance in Honda’s £26,160 ‘e’ electric car would emit 437kg of well-to-wheels CO2. The equivalent distance in the new £18,980 hybrid Jazz would emit 1,104kg of CO2 in tailpipe emissions. You would have to do 60 per cent less mileage in the Jazz to match the e’s CO2 contribution and it seems unlikely you’d replace that near 4,000-mile annual mileage gap on this little scooter.
What you could do is close that gap, however. So average British commuting in 2018 was 2,600 miles, which if done on this scooter would emit just 31.4kg of CO2, which would take over 404kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere by leaving a Jazz at home.
Of course, you can push and pull at these figures and they take no account of the well-to-pump contribution of the petrol extraction, refining and delivery, or the considerable charging or transmission losses for electricity. A more efficient diesel alternative could bring the electric-to-combustion ratio down to about 50 per cent, but then diesel cars tend to cover higher mileages.
What’s clear, however, is that on a half-decent day the NQi can be a fun and involving way of getting to work and it does the planet a bit of good, too.
As far as the future is concerned, ambition is all very well, but NIU will have to back up its boasts with serious product development. As they arrive in the sophisticated European markets, electric two-wheelers are at the start of their development journey.
For some folk, the NQi GTS Sport will fill a gap in their commuting requirements, but it’s no substitute for a 125cc commuter. Next year’s NIU battery motorcycle is going to be very interesting – and possibly worrying for existing motorcycle manufacturers.
NIU NQi GTS Sport
Price (OTR): £2,956 including 20 per cent Government OLEV grant
Battery: two EVE 60-volt 26Ah units under the floor and under the seat
Continuous power output: 3,100 watts
Battery capacity in total: 3.12kWh
Weight including batteries: 109kg
Seat height: 820mm,
Range: 60 miles
Wheel size: 14 inches
Top speed: 43.5mph
CO2 well to wheels: 7.6g/kWh
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